Deferred Derivation

justifiably lazy orphans

(alternative subtitle: “I used the TemplateHaskell to destroy the TemplateHaskell”)

(EDIT: 2021-11-05 - Having actually tried this approach in production, I now have an experience report and a warning. Scroll to the bottom for the details!)

At the day job, we use the aeson-typescript library to generate TypeScript types from our Haskell types. One problem is that the library uses TemplateHaskell to do this, which means we have TemplateHaskell in almost all of our datatype-defining modules. Due to the TemplateHaskell recompilation avoidance bug (any module that uses TemplateHaskell must always be recompiled if any transitive dependency is changed), this means we spend a lot of time recompiling a lot of modules that don’t need to change. Freeing a module from TemplateHaskell speeds up our build tremendously - not because TemplateHaskell is slow (it’s very fast) but because compiling at all is slow. The best way to speed something up is to spend 0 time doing it - don’t do it at all!

Anyway, I investigated switching the library to a Generics based approach, but it’s complicated and looked tricky, so I decided not to pursue that. The library defines a type class HasJSONOptions, which lets you re-use the same JSON options for both aeson’s JSON encoding classes and the TypeScript class.

I had recently done some work with discoverEntities, a TemplateHaskell function which gathers the PersistEntity instances in scope and collects their entityDef (Proxy :: Proxy a). I started wondering - can I use this trick to defer the derivation and omit the TemplateHaskell? In preparation, I wrote discover-instances, which generalized the above pattern (and was a fun exercise in typed TemplateHaskell quotes).

Now, we might have had an instance like this:

data X = X { ... }

$(deriveJSON defaultOptions ''X)$(deriveTypeScript defaultOptions ''X)


We can excise the TemplateHaskell entirely by using Generics-based derivation for the JSON classes, and specify an instance for the HasJSONOptions class.

data X = X { ... }
deriving stock Generic

instance HasJSONOptions X where
getJSONOptions _ =
defaultOptions

instance ToJSON X where
toJSON =
genericToJSON (getJSONOptions (Proxy :: Proxy X))

instance FromJSON X where
parseJSON =
genericFromJSON (getJSONOptions (Proxy :: Proxy X))


But we don’t yet have that TypeScript instance.

Let’s look at the module that actually generates our TypeScript code.

module MakeTypeScript where

import Model.X
import Model.Y
import Model.Z

writeTypeScript :: IO ()
writeTypeScript = do
writeFile frontendTypes $concat [ makeTypeScriptFor (Proxy :: Proxy X) , makeTypeScriptFor (Proxy :: Proxy Y) , makeTypeScriptFor (Proxy :: Proxy Z) ]  This is the only place those instances are ever used. With the above change (eg deleting the deriveTypeScript stuff), there’s no longer an instance present. But I can fix that by deriving the instance in this file. module MakeTypeScript where import Model.X import Model.Y import Model.Z$(deriveTypeScript (getJSONOptions (Proxy :: Proxy X)) ''X)
$(deriveTypeScript (getJSONOptions (Proxy :: Proxy Y)) ''Y)$(deriveTypeScript (getJSONOptions (Proxy :: Proxy Z)) ''Z)

writeTypeScript :: IO ()
writeTypeScript = do
writeFile frontendTypes $concat [ makeTypeScriptFor (Proxy :: Proxy X) , makeTypeScriptFor (Proxy :: Proxy Y) , makeTypeScriptFor (Proxy :: Proxy Z) ]  This is deeply unsatisfying to me. We have three points of repetition: 1. importing a type 2. deriveing an instance for it 3. Mentioning the type in writeTypeScript. Let’s improve this. First, we want to use discoverInstances to splice in all the HasJSONOptions instances that are visible. Second, we’ll iterate over each instance, and derive the code there. module MakeTypeScript where import Model.X import Model.Y import Model.Z$(do
decs <-
forInstances
$$(discoverInstances @HasJSONOptions)  \proxy@(Proxy :: Proxy a) -> do deriveTypeScript (getJSONOptions proxy) (nameForType proxy) pure (concat decs) ) writeTypeScript :: IO () writeTypeScript = do writeFile frontendTypes  concat [ makeTypeScriptFor (Proxy :: Proxy X) , makeTypeScriptFor (Proxy :: Proxy Y) , makeTypeScriptFor (Proxy :: Proxy Z) ]  forInstances is a convenience function that lets you operate on the proxy with the constraint in scope. This totally works. We’ve derived all of the instances of TypeScript, and now we’re using them quite happily. Now we’re down to two points of repetition - importing a type and writing it specifically in makeTypeScriptFor. We can’t get rid of imports, so let’s look at the writeFile list. This is pretty easy to get rid of using our SomeDict TypeScript. module MakeTypeScript where import Model.X import Model.Y import Model.Z (do decs <- forInstances$$(discoverInstances @HasJSONOptions)
$\proxy@(Proxy :: Proxy a) -> do deriveTypeScript (getJSONOptions proxy) (nameForType proxy) pure (concat decs) ) writeTypeScript :: IO () writeTypeScript = do writeFile frontendTypes$ concat $withInstances $$(discoverInstances @TypeScript) \proxy -> makeTypeScriptFor proxy  And we’re done! Wins: 1. No more TemplateHaskell requirement in a module that defines an API type! 2. No more boring repetition! 3. We got to use fancy types! Losses: 1. Orphan instances :( 2. There’s still TemplateHaskell even if it’s localized 3. Generic-based deriving is slower, so a clean build will be worse UPDATE: Experience Report Alright, so I’ve put this technique through it’s paces on the work codebase, and it works, but it has an unforeseen negative consequence. Here’s what happens: 1. Types are enrolled in the “signal class”, which is effectively free for compilation time. 2. But then we introduce a new module, TypeScript.Instances, which imports all the datatypes we expose on the front-end. 3. This module runs $$(discoverInstances) and then deriveTypeScript on every single type 4. This takes a long time! Like ~7 seconds. 5. And, because it is downstream of every type, we have to recompile the module basically whenever any module is touched. To put it in a textual meme format, • (!!!) Trade offer (!!!) • You get: • Recompilation avoidance for most of your modules • I get: • Forced recompilation of a big module in the hot path of a successful recompile, every single time, forever This is not a good trade, unfortunately. There are two work-arounds that I’ve thought about: 1. Moving the TypeScript code generation and instance derivation to the executable component that actually runs. 2. Moving all the types out-of-band of the modules that are more likely to change Moving to a separate package component This essentially defers the problem, by saying: “I don’t care about compiling this for my normal workflow. Please just only compile this when I specifically ask for it.” This means that your ghcid flow (or HLS, or whatever) will stop at this boundary and not check for compilation past that. If you’re in the habit of trying to build as much of the package as possible with each compile-step, then this completely defeats that. To do this, you’d move the MakeTypeScript module from the src/ or library component into an executable component. I’m not a fan of this approach, and won’t be pursuing it. Moving types out-of-band So, this is a bit tricky. The way a lot of our application is designed, we have our web application handlers defined in a module along with their request/response types. For example, we might have a route called FooR, and it’d be defined in a module much like this: module Handler.Foo where import Import.Handler getFooR :: Text -> Handler FooResponse getFooR fooName = do foo <- getFoo fooName pure$ FooResponse {..}

postFooR :: Handler FooResponse
postFooR = do
FooRequest {..} <- parseJSONBody
doStuff
pure $FooResponse {..}  We might have 1-2 datatype definitions in a module, with Handler and business logic taking up 100-1000 lines of code. Recompiling this code every time is a drag, especially since the instances themselves are pretty quick. In MakeTypeScript, we import each of our Handler.* modules. module MakeTypeScript where import Handler.Foo import Handler.Bar import Handler.User import Handler.Organziation import ..........  Due to the transitive nature of the recompilation problem, this means that any change to any types or business logic upon those types will trigger a recompilation, not just of the Handler, but also the MakeTypeScript. We can restructure the Handler modules to avoid this problem: module Handler.Foo.Types where -- this import has a *lot* fewer dependences in the application import Import.Handler.Types data FooRequest = FooRequest ...$(deriveJSONAndTypeScript defaultOptions ''FooRequest)

data FooResponse = FooResponse ...

$(deriveJSONAndTypeScript defaultOptions ''FooResponse) module Handler.Foo where -- this import has mostly business logic import Import.Handler import Handler.Foo.Types getFooR :: Text -> Handler FooResponse getFooR fooName = do foo <- getFoo fooName pure$ FooResponse {..}

postFooR :: Handler FooResponse
postFooR = do
FooRequest {..} <- parseJSONBody
doStuff
pure \$ FooResponse {..}

-- etc for a few hundred lines


By doing this, we now only recompile Handler.Foo when it actually needs to change. If we can sufficiently separate the business logic and type declarations, then we can also avoid recompiling MakeTypeScript so often -

module MakeTypeScript where

import Handler.Foo.Types
import Handler.Bar.Types
import ...


If these Handler.*.Types modules only ever depend on rarely-changing datatypes, then this should alleviate the problem.

However…

A problem with the Deferred Derivation approach is that it is extremely easy to break the fast compilation times you get from it. Since any TemplateHaskell at all causes The Recompilation Problem, skipping only a few parts of it will mostly just make your compilation slower.

The strategy for moving types out-of-band is also effective at solving the original problem. By defining the types and logic separately, you don’t have to needlessly recompile the types all of the time. And this has a cascading incremental effect - the more module splitups you do, the faster things get, immediately.

Maybe this is a bad idea

At the very least, the results of performing the experiment at work are: “let’s not use this.”

I do still think there’s a lot of value in “signal classes” and discoverInstances for those classes to perform neat metaprogramming. Deferring derivation of type classes that are primarily used for a single thing may not be the ticket, though.